130-meter long coral reefs found in Gushikawa Island, Izena

130-meter long coral reefs found in Gushikawa Island, Izena

A large cluster of coral (Pocillopora) found in the area of Gushikawa Island, Izena Village (Photograph provided by Yoshikatsu Nakano).

May 13, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

Yoshikatsu Nakano and a specialist team from the University of the Ryukyus Tropical Biosphere Research Center, and marine photographer Akinori Annou found a large coral reef colony, (Pocillopora), in the area around Gushikawa Island, Izena Village. According to Nakano, the colony was found off the east side of the island, and runs 150 meters in a north-south direction. At its nearest point to the island, the reef is 50 meters from the shore, and 130 meters away at its furthest point. The coral is a member of the Pocillopora. This is the largest colony ever recorded in Japan.

Nakano and Anno found the coral last June. The findings will be presented at the Okinawa Biology Conference, which will be held on the 28th of May at the University of the Ryukyus.

This coral cluster has a section that is one meter thick, suggesting it has grown over a long period of time. Nakano said, “It has survived the recent coral bleaching. It might have grown for several hundred years.”

Usually, the reef edge breaks up due to rough waves, and bedrock gets washed away or fractured. As a result, it is rare to find a large cluster with one kind of coral. The coral appear to be clones, indicating they are reproducing asexually. According to Nakano, this is the first time a self-fertilizing Pocilloporahas been found.

Nakano added, “It is rare for Pocillopora to grow over one meter. The finding is precious not only for biological study but also in the fields of geography and geology. It is significant in the history of coral reef formation and prompts us to think about the diversity of coral reefs in Okinawa.”

(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana)

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